Monday, August 1, 2011

Blisters, Bridges and Bumpass Hell

Forrest and I returned to San Jose from our adventure in the Klamath National Wilderness volunteering with the Pacific Crest Trail Association. Our original start date was July 24, however on our drive up to NorCal we received word that our work would be postponed until July 25. So we stopped by Chico to see Amy, Chris and Toby. Our gracious hosts showed us a few prize spots in Chico such as Burgers and Brews, Sin of Cortez and Bidwell Canyon park.

After our weekend in Chico, we drove almost to the Oregon border to Seiad Valley, CA and then drove back-country on a dusty dirt road for 2.5 hours to our waaaaaay back-country "front-country" campsite (we had our car nearby but still had to dig our own "restrooms"). We joined an existing 5 person crew that was part of the Student Conservation Association working on PCT locations from May through December 2011 for about $2000 total stipend (let us pause to reflect on how happy we are that we are not still college aged and impressed with $2000 total salary for 6 months!!!) The trail maintenance is being funded in part through the governments American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), which is also fueling public works projects throughout the country, including some infrastructure improvements I've worked on in Boston.

The work days started around 8am and ended by 5pm with almost non-stop sweat dripping labor. We worked on trimming trees, clearing brush and weeds, building rock walls and retreading trail sections. As a reward for volunteering the SCA crew fed us for the week. We were informed that the menu would be vegetarian, so we were unsure what to expect. Breakfast was pretty basic with bagels, fruit and coffee. Lunch was a random selection of cheese and vegetable sandwiches (I missed the meat) and also fruit and trail mix. Dinners were fish tacos, egg sandwiches and roasted potatoes, tofu lasagna and tofu vegetable stir fry with quinoa. I was most impressed with their use of a dutch oven over the open fire, wise purchase. I was left to wonder how the tofu made it through the scorching summer heat, my stomach thought perhaps it had reached it's prime sometime before I consumed it (read into that what you will).

Forrest and I ended up with about 8 total blisters on hands and feet, not too bad. One of the volunteers asked me if I would ever consider committing 6 months to this type of program and I answered pretty quickly "no..... but I'm impressed that you are doing it." I guess since I've been in grown-up land I have come to appreciate my bed, toilet, shower and non-cowboy style coffee.

We headed south on I-5 on Friday since my glasses melted in the car one of the days. After getting them replaced at LenCrafters ($$$), and checking out the famous Sundial Bridge, we crashed for the night. Redding isn't such a bad place, we made it out alive.

Saturday we checked out Lassen Volcanic National Park, since it was "on the way" home to San Jose. The park was quite busy but very beautiful and worth the trip. There was a significant amount of snow melt left (even mid summer!) and we enjoyed the cool temperatures. It is exceptionally ironic that we could not hike to the top of Mt. Lassen due to .... trail maintenance. We did hike to Bumpass Hell, an active geothermal area.

Today we checked out the Garlic Festival in Gilroy, CA. We tried some calamari, garlic fries and garlic ice cream! In case you are wondering, now, 8 hours after consuming that much garlic, I can still taste garlic.

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